Black buzzards causing a buzz

Posted on Nov 10, 2014
The protected status of the black buzzard isn’t flying with some Kentucky farmers who have lost cattle to the ominous scavengers. The problem is so prevalent, it’s being discussed at KFB meetings on the state and county levels.

This roost of black buzzards is about eight miles southeast of Shelbyville.
This roost of black buzzards is about eight miles southeast of Shelbyville.

“Across the state we are seeing mounting livestock losses,” said KFB Director Danny Wilkinson of Adair County, who has lost calves and heifers. “It’s the worst predator I have; much worse than coyotes.”

Lyon County FB Director Brent White has launched a crusade of sorts to attack the black buzzard problem after losing cows and calves from a large roost near the Fredonia Valley area in northern Lyon County. He has been speaking to groups and penned a letter that county Farm Bureaus can use.

“It’s been a terrible problem for me,” White said. “It started about two years ago. I had two newborn calves in a small pasture; they came off a roost and attacked both of them. They killed one. I lost a large cow that had a hip problem; they got up on his back and pecked his eyes out. They’ve killed a couple more calves. They would follow my herd from paddock to paddock waiting to take advantage of a calf. I’ve seen some distract the cow while others attacked the calf.”

Black buzzards (also called “vultures”) are protected under the federal Migratory Bird Act. While most common in rural areas, they’re also seen in the city ravaging through garbage cans.

Farmers can get a permit to kill the buzzards with steel shot, but must go through both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and USDA. Some farmers claim that process is cumbersome.

KFB’s Public Affairs Division is studying potential options for addressing the problem through legislation or regulations. “We’re asking people to document losses and report them to us so we can use that information,” said Wilkinson, who chairs KFB’s swine advisory committee and serves on the Kentucky Livestock Care Standards Commission.

Turkey vultures also are common in Kentucky, but are not known to attack live animals.

“The black vultures are the ones that will eat live animals,” White said. “They are smaller and more aggressive. They will run a turkey (vulture) off a carcass. They are not afraid of humans, either.”

White said he wants “to get the word out” in hope that the federal government will develop some form of a quick remedy for farmers. Meanwhile, he advises those with livestock losses to take photos and record the date and location. That information can be used to obtain livestock indemnity loss payments through the Farm Service Agency.

Tagged Post Topics Include: Adair County, Brent White, Danny Wilkinson, Farm Service Agency, Fredonia Valley area, Kentucky Livestock Care Standards Commission, Lyon County, Migratory Bird Act, US Fish and Wildlife Service, USDA